Emir of Bauchi Dr. Rilwanu Suleiman Adamu recently added his voice to the effort to end the intractable Almajiri phenomenon. He said traditional institutions are doing everything possible to stem the tide of street begging by Almajiri pupils in the state. The emir received a delegation of students of higher institutions under the aegis of Almajiri Project, which aims at educating the public on the negative impacts of street begging by Almajiri pupils. He commended Almajiri Project for taking the bull by the horns and urged other philanthropic organizations and individuals to join the struggle to end street begging.
National Almajiri Project, Bauchi State chapter, held a peaceful demonstration in Bauchi on May 25 to mark Almajiri Child Rights Day. They carried placards with inscriptions such as ‘A child Deserves Better Education’, ‘Almajiri can attain any higher position in society’. The Project’s organizing secretary Abubakar Salisu stressed the need for parents to take full responsibility of their wards and should not allow them to become miscreants in society.
Similarly, the Senate on Tuesday last week, May 28, called for a reform of the current model of the Almajiri education system in the North. Senate Leader Dr. Ahmad Lawan, who moved the motion, said the Universal Basic Education Act 2004, which made formal education compulsory for school age children, should be fully implemented. He said “there are 17-year olds who are supposed to be in school but are roaming the streets”. Lawan said it was time for states where the Almajiri system is prevalent to work out a model that ends the current, abused system.
Speaking also on the Almajiri trend at the 2019 Almajiri Child Rights Day marked at the Federal University of Technology, Minna, Director of Almajiri Child Rights Initiative (ACRI) Malam Nurudeen Lemu said the phenomenon may become Nigeria’s biggest nightmare unless government addresses it. Lemu said, “We need to stop looking at the Almajiri child as the problem. They are the effect of failed leadership and they are the victims of how the system has failed Nigerians. We must solve the problem now.”
In pre-colonial North, the Almajiri system functioned according to expectations but in recent decades, it completely lost its way. The system is bedeviled with challenges that pertain to curriculum, its products and even the teachers; all these elements require serious reform. Most of the time needed by pupils for learning the Qur’an is lost to street begging. The system is also filled with unlearned Malams who propound self-serving ideas regarding begging. There have been cases of pupils losing hands or eyes due to teachers’ crude management of pupils’ disciplinary cases. Many Almajiri pupils are lost to disease and hunger while others are lost to crime and street violence.
The bastardized Almajiri system has continued to thrive because highly irresponsible parents, who see it as an escape route for the dereliction of their parental obligations, find proprietors that are ready to accept the pupils. Breaking this horrible chain requires government to intervene with severe sanctions in addition to developing workable operational guidelines. As a regional phenomenon, each northern state must enact and enforce laws that do not only regulate the system but also ban street begging among almajiri pupils in order to forestall the pupils from moving to states where no such laws exist.
As a potential threat to national security, the federal government should lead the way in tackling it. The onus is on President Muhammadu Buhari to convene a national stakeholders’ summit to address the Almajiri phenomenon. All relevant stakeholders including the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs [NSCIA], Northern States Governors Forum [NSGF], Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) and State Assembly Speakers should put heads together and agree on a line of action. President Buhari has the best opportunity to end the Almajiri phenomenon. He must seize on it and leave a landmark legacy.